If your doctor prescribes the wrong medicine and you suffer an injury, you may have a valid medical malpractice claim. However, a doctor is only liable if he or she actually made the mistake, not someone else, such as a pharmacist or the drug company. It sounds simple, but it can be difficult to prove and, like any medical malpractice action, in order for the lawsuit to be viable, you have to prove that the doctor’s actions fell below the standard of care.
Proving liability in this kind of medical malpractice lawsuit means proving that the doctor was negligent in prescribing you a certain medication. To do that, you need to establish:
what the medical standard of care was under the circumstances
how your doctor failed to meet the standard of care, and
how you were harmed as a result.
The medical standard of care is the first thing that needs to be established, usually by an expert with experience in the same medical field as your doctor. The medical standard of care is often defined as the type and level of care that a doctor with the same training and experience would provide under similar circumstances in the same community. This is the yardstick against which you measure your doctor’s decision to prescribe the medication in question, and his or her conduct in connection with that decision.
Next, you would need to show (again, usually with the testimony of an expert witness) precisely how your doctor failed to meet that standard of care when treating you. What exactly did your doctor do (or fail to do) that was not in line with the proper course of conduct under the circumstances?
Finally, you have to prove that the medication caused an injury, that is, it caused new health problems, or made existing health problems worse.
There are many ways in which your doctor could make a mistake in prescribing medication. Here are a few of the most common examples:
prescribes medication with the wrong dosage.
provides incorrect instructions for taking the medication.
prescribes the medication for the wrong length of time.
prescribes medication that contains ingredients to which the patient is allergic.
prescribes medication that is contraindicated with other medications the patient is taking.
prescribes medication that will harm the patient because of the patient’s other underlying medical conditions.
prescribes a medication that is ineffective and causes the patient’s underlying and untreated condition to worsen.
fails to relay a drug manufacturer’s warning of risks and side effects to the patient, which is needed in order for the patient to make an informed decision.
It’s important to note that medication-related mistakes can be made almost anywhere in the supply chain from manufacturer to patient. For example, the drug manufacturer could produce a tainted or unreasonably dangerous medication. A nurse could administer the wrong dosage or drug. A pharmacist could fill out the prescription incorrectly. Or, the patient may bear some amount of fault for not giving the doctor an accurate medical history (e.g., failing to inform the doctor about known allergies or other underlying medical conditions) that would conflict with the medication. In such situations, the doctor may not be liable at all for the patient’s injury.
If you believe that you were prescribed the wrong medication, The Thistle Law Firm is experienced in these claims and can help you understand your legal options and answer your questions at 215-568-6800.